NPS photo/Karen Altman
Experts at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina need help identifying "weird things" that washed up on the beach recently, leaving them "stumped."
"Okay everybody, we need some help identifying these objects. Our turtle patrol found them on the ocean-side beach recently adjacent to a log covered in goose-neck barnacles. So far, we're stumped as to what they might be," the national park wrote on Facebook alongside two photos of the mystery creatures. "They were about 6 inches long and no longer alive. One guess was they might be a form of sea cucumber (or sea slug?), but they couldn't be matched to any images that were posted online."
The caption ends with a question for the public: "Has anyone seen anything like this along the North Carolina coast before?"
Today, N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs chimed in with their official guess. "We are pretty certain these are polychaete worms in the family Amphinomidae (bristle worms), probably Amphinome rostrata," the office wrote in a comment. "They appear really, really, really toasted by sun exposure and are covered by sand, thus the 'disguise.'"
Cape Lookout National Seashore is the southernmost part of the Outer Banks. According to The News & Observer, the collision of the warm Gulf Stream waters with the cold Labrador Current occasionally results in the appearance of exotic creatures on the barrier islands.
Bristle worms, which occur in every marine habitat, are hardly exotic. They play an important role in ecosystems by eating plankton, algae, and decaying organisms.
Bristle worms! Who knew?